Bach Cello Suite, Prelude

On a Cello Banjo no less! I gotta say, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Cello-size Banjo before but I like it! Robby Faverey has some amazing talent and I hope you check out more of his work on YouTube.

ENJOY!

If you are still interested at this point, check out more about him and his musical family from Suriname by having a look at his website HERE.  Isn’t it fun to learn new things and explore new cultures?

More Cigar Box Guitar

Greg, over at Hillbilly Daiku is always posting great stuff.  There is too much good information out there and not enough time to take it all in while still leading a creative and fulfilling life so it takes me a while to catch up.  I was just reading this excellent post about something dear to my heart; handmade music and cigar box guitars (CBGs). I am still a newbie in the low-tech, no-holds-barred world of this iconic American instrument but I am studiously working on my second one now.

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My first CBG.  Image links to description of the construction.

Not only is Greg a great woodworker and occasional philosopher but is quite gifted as an illustrator and draftsman as well.  I suggest you get to his blog and peruse his fine work, starting with this post about how to build a cigar box guitar.

I don’t remember the first time I saw or heard a cigar box guitar. I’m sure it must have been on YouTube though. Like many of my projects, the seed was planted somewhere along the way and finally broke to the surface. So, what is a cigar box guitar? Well, it is exactly what it […]

via Homemade Music-Part 1 — HILLBILLY DAIKU

N.B. there is a follow-up post and a quick link to the second half of the project HERE.

Cigar Box Guitar God?

I saw this link this morning on C.B, Gitty’s music crafters’ supply blog.  A video of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven arranged and played by Charles Atchison.  Atchison is a remarkably talented musician and general polymath.  Definitely worth checking out.

If you are looking for a resource on instrument building he also has an interesting looking book out as well.

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Distracted and Sidetracked More Than Usual

Le violon d’IngresSM

Talk about an image hook for an instrument building post! Le violon d’Ingres, Man Ray 1924.

As if I didn’t have enough irons in the fire…

I decided to make (and learn) a new instrument this summer; a three-string cigar box guitar.  It took a few weekends to get it right; figure out the design, apply a finish, and re-work a few details in the setup before I was pleased with the action, feel, and sound.  It’s fretless so I am also learning a lot about the slide as well.  It’s got a great, bluesy sound and maybe I’ll post a few riffs when I’m feeling up to snuff.

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My first CBG, but certainly not the last.

There are plenty of web and print resources for making a Cigar Box Guitar (CBG) so I leave the detailed instructional stuff to the pros.  However, Cigar Box Nation is a great starting place if you are interested in homemade musical instruments and I’d suggest starting there if you have no other experience.  You can even buy an inexpensive kit if you don’t know where to start but, in the spirit of the cigar box instrument movement, I decided to wing it for the first one.  I did however, have to find a cigar box so I picked up one from C.B. Gitty for a very reasonable price.  While there, I bought some parts for some other instruments in the planning stages and some very affordable strings to boot.

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So how do you make a Cigar Box Guitar?

What follows is my brief overview of making a CBG from mostly found materials.  As a side note, you are certainly not limited to cigar boxes for a resonator.  A quick look around the internet will reveal some fairly ingenious sound boxes from oil cans, wine boxes, and gourds.  I was tempted to save the few dollars and just knock up a box myself but decided that for my first specimen I would stick to the traditional model.

So what do you need to make a functional guitar?

There are essentially only three parts to this ancient style instrument; the neck, the resonator, and the strings.  Yes, it’s a little more complicated than that but looking at the essentials helps simplify the construction.

The junk pile.

The junk pile.  A piece of oak was found suitable.

Neck

The neck is any straight piece of hardwood about 35 inches (100 cm) long, about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) wide, and approximately 3/4 inch (2 cm) thick.  Mine was made from a less-than-perfect recycled oak scrap out of my wood pile.  While strings can actually be harvested from the steel radials in tires, these make for some pretty limited and primitive sounds.  I just used a set of guitar strings I had around for the setup and strung it properly when complete with a set of open G tuning strings from C.B. Gitty.

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Resonator

The resonator in this case is a wooden cigar box.  Depending on how you decide to put it all together, the cigar boxes may need to be reinforced and modified to hold the neck.  They are only intended to hold cigars so the pieces may need glued tight to avoid rattles.

strings

Strings

The string assembly needs a few things to keep them under tension and control their length (for tuning).  Starting from the bottom of the instrument you will need something to firmly attach the strings to; tacks, screws, or some sort of tail piece.  I had a very cool hinge without anything to do so I used it.  The screw holes are just small enough to hold the ball ends of standard guitar strings.  Next, you will need a bridge.  This is simply a bar with grooves to hold the strings in place at an even spacing.  This should be something dense like bone, very hard wood, or even a screw laid on it’s side.  At the far end of the neck the strings will need to pass over a nut which is essentially another bridge at the other end.  Finally, the strings attached to some sort of tuning peg or geared machine to change tension (and tone).

Put it Together

Here is the construction in a nutshell.  Cut out the neck and peg head shape. If the neck passes through the body of the box (as opposed to laying over the top) it should be dished out where it would touch the top.  The notches are where is will join with the box.

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DSC_0010 (3)A groove was cut with a rasp to hole the 1/4″ bolt that serves as nut.

DSC_0011 (4)Cut this notch deeper than 1/8″ so the action won’t be too high.

DSC_0014 (3)The peg head can either be set back as above or angled back like a traditional guitar. This allows the strings to be pulled down over the nut.  As this left the peg head a bit thin for my taste I laminated a piece of hickory on the back for strength.

DSC_0019 (2)Drill holes for the machine tuners.  Mine were recycled from an old Harmony guitar (a garage sale gimme) and served perfectly.

DSC_0018 (2)Here you can begin to see the carving of the neck.  I rounded mine fairly traditionally but this is up to the maker/player.  The rest of the shaping will wait until the neck is fit to the resonator.DSC_0002 (4)Once the neck location was determined, an appropriate corresponding notch was created in the box.

DSC_0005 (6)Test fitting the neck.  You can see the wasted area that was removed to make sure there was no interference with the sound board (the box top).

DSC_0007 (4)The box wasn’t too sturdy and had a bit of a rattle upon “tap testing.”  All joints were glued up for strength.  Note I moved the interior lid sticker to the inside back where it can be seen through the sound holes.

DSC_0006 (4)The resonator is dry fitted into place.  After this, it was just a matter of removing the leftover bit of neck, glue the box in place, glue the lid shut, and attach the hinge that serves as tail piece.

DSC_0001 (7) DSC_0003 (7)This nifty hinge served perfectly and suited my mental need for brass or bronze fittings where possible.  I didn’t like my first experiments with a bolt for a bridge so I whittled a simple one from a scrap of ebony.  I played it “in the white” and made the few adjustments necessary before finishing up.

DSC_0021 (1)Fret positions were measured out and marked with a wood burner.

DSC_0023 (2)With a parallel-sided neck this is a simple process.

DSC_0024 (1)Piloting for screws with a gimlet.

DSC_0025 (1)Attaching the tuning machines permanently.

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The rusty old machine tuners cleaned up well and suit it perfectly.

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The head stock is reinforced with a slab of hickory as a bit of insurance.

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Fancy brass nut was cut from a toilet tank bolt.

A few coats of tung oil later, and she’s up and playing.  I’ll update this as I get familiar with my new toy.  YouTube is full of instructional videos about playing a three and four string guitar.  Mine works well in an open G tuning.  Very bluesy and surprisingly bright and clear.

Looking at my junk craft piles around the house I believe I easily have the makings for three or four more.  My next one is already rattling around my head and I think it will be fretted for added versatility.

Come back soon…

George

Home Grown Music

As an undaunted woodworker I have made most of my musical instruments over the years.  I could never justify purchasing a high-end, high-quality instrument but I could make a reasonable proxy.  My interest has been rekindled in the last couple years, making my third banjo for myself and reviving one of the mountain dulcimers as my partner has decided to take an interest in it.

I find that there is never enough time to play an instrument properly with a regular day job, a relationship, and other interests.  It seems that it’s time for a change in the schedule to put music back into the center of life.

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Raw and Gritty, Real Blues is Alive and Well

And this is just one facet of this all American genre.

“The blues used to be dangerous, then it got packaged into an adult contemporary box and organized into TAB charts. Luckily, nobody has passed any laws demanding pure traditionalism. I’d rather be a blues liar.

You are more than a guitarist. You are a musician, a creative force. You have the right to take several opposing styles or influences, feed them into the Veg-O-Matic of your mind and come up with something totally unique. If people accuse you of straying from the fold, be proud. Be bold. Create your own freak flag and wave it high.”

Shane Speal, Guitar World

And if that raw power isn’t enough, here’s Ben Rouse happily jamming out his own arrangement of Kashmir from Led Zeppelin on his Cigar Box Guitar.

Hooray for the open tuning handmade music revival.  I like where this is taking us.

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